Originally published in Startup Daily on 21 June 2021. Written by Ryan Trainor, CEO and Co-founder of Adventus.io
When the pandemic hit early last year, like many business owners, I had two immediate questions.
One: are our people safe and how can we support them?
Two: how is this going to impact our business in the short and long term?
Adventus.io connects students with recruiters and universities around the world. The international education sector was of course upended by Covid-19 and students across the globe had to put their study plans on hold as borders seized up.
Thankfully, the sector has been incredibly resilient and demand for quality education is stronger than ever, as the pandemic has prompted people to assess their true priorities.
Last year, Adventus.io was also in the middle of Series A capital raising. This raised another big question for us: how could we build rapport with investors when we couldn’t get on a plane and meet them?
We were going to have to do things differently.
I’m pleased to say, we recently announced closing our Series A round of AUD $22.7 million.
But it’s been quite the journey. Here’s what I’ve learnt over the past year about how to raise capital in these unique times.
Zoom is tiring – but incredibly valuable
So much of capital raising is about human connection. You need to build genuine rapport to tell your story in the most compelling way. You need to read body language to see if people are connecting to what you’re saying.
This is really challenging to do online. As we’ve all learnt, processing information on Zoom is exhausting. But, with each investor call, our team thought really deeply about how to present and connect and got better at this over time.
On the flipside, the normalisation of video call technology presents a huge opportunity for capital raising. It helps breach time zones (which I can attest to thanks to several 4am calls). It’s enabled us to cast a much wider net and connect with a lot more people than we otherwise could have.
Learn to love feedback
This goes for any time, regardless of the pandemic: feedback from potential investors can be confronting, but it’s crucial to your success.
Every question you get – even if it’s an objection to a part of your vision that you feel really strongly about – is a gift.
If you treat the feedback process as an intellectual exercise, it can help remove some of the ego. In every discussion you’re in, remember that you have the opportunity to pan for gold.
You may glean information that will influence operational thought or even your business model.
You’re speaking to some of the smartest people in the world, don’t be defensive about their feedback, but welcome it.
Don’t pretend you have all the answers
It’s natural to want to have a definitive strategy when talking to investors. But, particularly at the moment, there are so many variables that we can’t control.
Dropping the pretense that you have all the answers can actually be quite empowering. What investors seem to be seeking more and more, is not necessarily that you know everything, but that you’re thinking things through in a considered way.
It’s a risk assessment on their behalf. They’ll want to know: have you thought through not only the internal factors of execution, but the external factors as well?
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable
These are incredibly tough times – and it’s helpful for everyone to acknowledge that.
If you allow yourself to be vulnerable, you can have way more authentic conversations with people.
Investors also want to see that you’ve got enough humility to be coachable and learn, so that they can still add value and share their experiences with you as well post investing.
Remember timing is a huge factor
So much of this is about timing. Try to understand as much as you can about the internal processes of your potential investors. Even if it’s not an immediate win, they might be a good fit later down the line.
You also need to clearly understand the mandate of each of the funds, and what an investor sees as investable. It was still very important for us get to know the investors that didn’t sign on right away. They may not have fit the mandate for this current round – but they could still be a really influential or supportive potential investor in the future.
Finally, a few things that served me well:
Do your research before an investor meeting. Be clear and concise in what you are presenting. What’s important to them?
As I mentioned, don’t be disheartened by a ‘no’. Every meeting you have gives you the chance to learn & improve.
Shift your thinking re valuations. The BIG valuations aren’t always a good thing. Shooting too high, too early can come back to haunt you.
Always do reverse DD on investors & ask yourself: “If things weren’t going well, how would we operate together?”
Embrace thinking differently
The higher education sector is rapidly evolving. The pandemic may have forced institutions to swiftly digitise, but this process was already underway.
Adventus.io has always embraced thinking differently. We aim to fix the broken recruitment supply chain and offer a solution that gets better results for students.
The funds we have raised will allow us to keep enacting this vision. It will allow us to scale, keep investing in our product and tech, and hire the best people in the world to do the job.
We plan to expand from 12 to 30 regions and keep building the infrastructure to be able to support our institutional partners all around the world.
International education has always been a pathway to a different life, and it will continue to be post-pandemic.
We feel very fortunate we now have investors and importantly partners who share Adventus.io mission to transform the way the world accesses international education.
Ryan Trainor is the CEO and Co-founder of Adventus.io. Ryan has over 25 years of experience as an EdTech and education entrepreneur. Having founded and exited several high-profile education ventures in south-east Asia. Ryan has previously won an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.